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Happy Birthday Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (American Modernism Artist)

November 15, 2019 3 min read

Georgia Totto O’Keeffe

For the longest while, the world of art has been dominated by male figures, and female artists, though equally talented, have not received the same treatment. However, the modern age came with a new wave of feminist movements, and female artists were unchained from the patriarchy to freely express their thoughts and enjoyed the same status as male artists. Georgia O’Keeffe was born in such an exciting age of change, and, sensing the changes in the society she had grown up in, she went away from the conventions of the time to embrace new ideas and new inspirations, effectively becoming a leading figure in American Modernism.

Born November, 15th 1887 to a family of seven children, Georgia Totto O’Keeffe spent her childhood in the rural area of Wisconsin, on her family’s farm. Perhaps it was because of her childhood home, which was close to nature, that young O’Keeffe began to develop an interest in art and the natural world. She also received ardent support from her mother, who desired to see all of her children become well-educated people. Thanks to her support and O’Keeffe’s natural disposition for the natural world, O’Keeffe started her art education very early in her childhood.

O’Keeffe went to the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was among the top of her class. Unfortunately, because of her poor health, she had to take a year off to recuperate from her illness. After her recovery, she was granted entry to the Art Students League in New York and studied there from 1907 to 1908, where she was given lectures on realism by William Merritt Chase, F. Luis Mora, and Kenyon Cox. One of her most prominent paintings in this period is Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot.

Her first big break came in 1912 when she studied under the direction of Arthur Wesley Dow, a revolutionary artist who sought to break away from the established realism by ways of experimenting with the shapes, the colors, and the contours. His ideas encouraged O’Keefe to begin experimenting herself, resulting in a series of abstract charcoal paintings which characterized some of her most striking features. These early paintings catapulted her to successes, and she then went on to paint New York’s skyscrapers as well as flowers, common themes in modernism.

Her real muse came about in 1929 when she came to Northern New Mexico, and the contours and the landscape of the land immediately captured her, inspiring many of her most famous works such as Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II. The land then became a part of her life, and she never went too far from it for the rest of her life, even as she was traveling internationally. Later in life, O’Keeffe became blind but was not deterred to paint. Thanks to the help of her assistants, her wishes were made possible. Her long life finally came to an end in 1986, at the age of 98, at Santa Fe.

O’Keeffe was a towering giant in American Modernism. With themes such as skyscrapers, flowers, and landscapes, her paintings incorporate contours, colors, and shapes that were truly revolutionary at the time when realism reigned supreme. For these reasons, it would be quite safe to say that she was among the founding members of American Modernism, and one of the few female artists to achieve wide recognition.

To view the art visit: https://www.okeeffemuseum.org or the actual museum @ 217 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel. 505.946.1000